San Diego is giving new meaning to the idea of cross-border cooperation. After 20 years of discussion and planning, the airport in SD is now constructing a 525 foot pedestrian bridge to the Tijuana airport, allowing ticketed passengers to pay a small fee and clear customs directly in the airport rather than the usual route of hiring a taxi to take you to the usual border crossing (note: taxi drivers are not happy with this project).
The idea first came about when the South County Economic Development Council surveyed the Tijuana airport parking lot and found that many US citizens were using the Tijuana airport as a cross-border commuter lot. The council originally proposed a terminal where planes could taxi on both sides of the border, but that apparently was too problematic. The pedestrian bridge project is being funded by private investors from both the US and Mexico, although they still need to figure out how to cover costs like paying for customs agents.
The benefits to Mexico are debatable. The mayor is actually on record saying that travelers can now bypass Tijuana completely and go direct to San Diego (it seems the opposite argument would also be true, but perhaps that’s not what most travelers are looking for).
The director of the Tijuana airport, Guillermo Villalba, disagrees, arguing that there are numerous benefits to the plan, namely that it will send “a message that the border region is prosperous and safe, will attract more business to the border region, will put Tijuana on the world map, attracting investment, tourism and economic development that will benefit not only Tijuana but the state and the entire border region.”
I’m not sure I agree with the director about the message this project is sending with regards to TJ, but I do agree that it will give the city a lot of publicity given the uniqueness of the plan. It will be interesting to see how well the bridge works and what kind of effects it will have on both cities.